Tentative 2015 Cherokee County school budget shows progress
by Michelle Babcock
April 25, 2014 04:00 AM | 1624 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After enduring years of funding cuts, furlough days and large class sizes, the Cherokee County School District budget committee announced some positive changes expected in the 2015 budget.

The local school district hopes to hire 49 additional teachers to lower class sizes, restore the three remaining employee furlough days and continue with this school year’s restoration of a full 180-day student calendar day, said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo in a memo this week.

School District spokeswoman Barbara said the board will have a budget conference during the May 15 work session, at 6 p.m. at the historic Canton High School Board Auditorium, and the board will vote on approving the budget on July 23.

The final recommended budget will be published online a week before the vote, and an executive summary of the budget will be made public June 19.

Petruzielo said his budget recommendations could be made because of “a significant reduction next fiscal year in state ‘austerity budget cuts,’ anticipated growth in the local property tax digest and a continuation of fiscally conservative practices and programs.”

Jacoby said the district has not been able to do significant teacher hiring since 2007 and furlough days have been in place since 2009.

Petruzielo said the new budget will help lower

class sizes in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms districtwide, by hiring more teachers.

The addition of 49 teachers will bring average class sizes down: kindergarten classes will decrease from 22 to 23 students, to 21 to 22 students; first-grade classes will decrease from 24 to 25 students, to 22 to 23 students; second-grade classes will decrease from 24 to 25 students, to 22 to 23 students; and third-grade classes will decrease from 23 to 24 students, to 22 to 23 students.

While the main goals for next year are to maintain the 180-day calendar, reduce class size and restore employee furlough days, Petruzielo said attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers, administrators and staff is another priority.

“If the anticipated local property tax digest increase allows, it will also be a priority for me to recommend longevity step increases for eligible employees and, if possible, a small cost-of-living increase,” Petruzielo said.

Petruzielo added the district “refrained from freezing salaries or retaining state funds allotted for longevity step increases” during the multi-year economic downturn, unlike many other metro Atlanta school systems.

“Those decisions have kept the school district salaries at relatively competitive levels,” he said.

The superintendent’s ad hoc budget committee used a zero-based budgeting system to review school system expenses, Petruzielo said, and spent the last four months helping to prepare the superintendent’s 2015 tentative budget.

Other recommendations for the next fiscal year budget, which begins in July, were: No increase in the millage rate, reduce class size by hiring additional teachers, eliminate three remaining employee furlough days, restore school nurse hours to a full six-hour day, partially restore staff with additional bus drivers, increase high school credit recovery opportunities, restore school police staffing adding up to five additional officers and continue to restore the district’s financial reserves.

The school board will hold a budget conference work session May 15, which is open to the public.

Jacoby said the public can speak to the budget agenda item at the meeting June 19.

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